Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Chandigarh - India's most modern city

A dark face in the crowd in Chandigarh's Rock Garden

The last stop on our Easter/Holi trip was India's most modern and planned city made from concrete in the 50s under direction of the legendary architect Le Corbusier. It is a city like no other in India: It is unusually spacious, clean, green and in every way convenient, and even hosts the special honour of being the only city which is capital of two different Indian states simultaneously (Punjab and Haryana) It is, however, far from charming. The rectangular concrete and brick blocks of the city are uninspiring to say the least and everything about the city - apart from the fancy stores and bars - seems to suggest that you are in a newly built Russian city during the days of the USSR rather than in India.

A typical Chandigarh commercial block. The whole city looks pretty much like this.

Orderly street with lots of space for every car.

The good part about Chanidgarh is the many green areas such as the pleasant and well groomed - although not hugely inspiring - rose gardens.

Local boy in the Rose Garden

Chandigarh does not see many foreign tourists as it is not heavy on traditional tourists sights. However, it is home to one iconic attraction, which is allegedly the second most visited attraction in India, beaten only by the Taj Mahal! I am talking here about the surreal Rock Garden. Made mostly from scraps and leftovers from building sites and factories, it succeeds in bringing the visitor into a world very different from the one outside the entrance gate. Nitoli didn't like it much, but I thought it was a really nice place, with an almost magical atmosphere.

Making our way through the many labyrinthine passages in the Rock garden.

Fairytale-like landscape in the Rock Garden. The illusion of entering a different world would be stronger if we didn't have to share the place with 20 visiting classes.

A large number of red and blue dragonflies add to the otherworldly atmosphere

Nitoli and I in a cheesy pose on a rock bridge

A section of the Rock Garden is dedicated to human and animal figures, also made from scraps

Humans, perhaps smoking big pipes or playing some instruments.

A little outside Chandigahr on the road to Shimla is the old Mughal "Pinjore Gardens". It's worth a stop on the way.

Nice sunset in Pinjore

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Portraits from Hola Mohala

Elephant riders in Anandpur Sahib

During our stay in Anandpur Sahib we met many interesting people, many of which insisted that I'd take a portrait of them. So my last post from the Hola Mohala will be a few of the most interesting of these portraits. Most of them are of men since they are generally much more keen on having their pictures taken by women.

Apart from all the men there was this one young lady, who didn't say a word yet tried eagerly to communicate with me.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

A Colourful Sikh Procession

Mounted Khalsa Warriors leading a procession

As disappointed as we were to miss the Khalsa martial arts games we certainly didn't leave Anandpur Sahib without some great experiences. We were lucky that a special event was happening this year only: A colourful procession commemorating the 300-year anniversary of the 10th living Guru of Sikhism terminating the line of human Gurus, and elevating the some holy Sikh writings to the status of Guru, known as Guru Granth Sahib. In that occasion a copy of the book dating from that very year, 1708, has been touring India accompanied by Sikh warriors. To mark the end of the Hola Mohala festival in Anandpur the book made an appearance and then left the town.

If any Sikhs are reading this I hope I have represented all this correctly.

The custom designed truck carrying the 300-year old holy manuscript causes devoted Sikhs to flock around it.

A young Khalsa struggling to control his horse.

A more calm, but equally decorated horse with its keeper.

Even motorcycles can be heavily decorated.

Even Elephants were part of the procession.

I love the colours scheme these guys are using.

Flag carriers on trucks. I suppose this is probably an honourable assignment.

Trunk to the sky...